“Last night Monsiuer has shared the news,” writes Princess Palatine, “wow, the old nag (Madame Maintenon) has the uterus cancer. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Only I don’t believe it. I had often noticed that she pretends to be deathly ill whenever she fears that the king may dump her, but as soon as she reattaches him to her apron, she is healthier than ever.”
If there is one uncharitable interpreter of Madame Maintenon’s actions it is Princess Palatine; the princess blames Maintenon for the arrangement of the unequal marriage of duc d’Orleans, Princess Palatine’s son and Louise de Blois, the out-of-wedlock daughter of Louis XIV and Madame Montespan. This unfortunate episode in the Family Romance at the Court of Versailles ends with a slap in the face which Princess publicly delivers to her offspring for accepting the match with a royal bastard.
To be fair to the old nag, Maintenon, we have to say that her school for the impoverished noble girls at Saint-Cyr is quite a success. The school, an institution of strict discipline and morals, has been never intended as a convent, but rather tries to educate and marry off its students. The selection process for a bride-to-be does not lack originality. Each of the four girls who appear in the visitor room wears the uniform of her class. At the end of the meeting, the guest needs to pick his color.
The king himself has been taking quite an interest in the girls’ education. He gives Racine two play-writing assignments and a small theater of Saint-Cir makes waves at the Court. Unfortunately the old nag, Maintenon, decides that there is too much excitement and nips the whole thing in the bud.
Louis XV is right, the school has quickly become a nest of bigotry, the next king certainly does not wish for his daughters to be educated there, but among the school’s students there are some famous young ladies, for example the sister of Napoleon, Charlotte whom Bonaparte is visiting there on several occasions. Later on Napoleon replicates the school shut down by the French Revolution; only he renames the institution as the School for the Daughters of the Legion of Honor.